13 March 2017

Thriving Nottingham customer plans for growth

Could there be any more rewarding a job than selling fun for a living? Harry Morris and his team at Weekend Dr help people throughout the UK to have the time of their lives on their stag and hen parties. He tells BizSpace how he started his customer-focuses business and what he’s learnt along the way.

Could there be any more rewarding a job than selling fun for a living?  Harry Morris and his team at Weekend Dr help people throughout the UK to have the time of their lives on their stag and hen parties.  He tells BizSpace how he started his customer-focuses business and what he’s learnt along the way.

It's been just over six months since Weekend Dr took up residency at our Arnold Business Centre in Nottingham, and already the team is expanding to keep up with demand.

New intern Zoe joins booking manager Rosie and company founder Harry Morris in their 430 sq ft unit.  The team organises events, specialising in stag and hen parties, helping clients throughout the UK to organise their trips of a lifetime all over Europe.

Harry is planning to take on a bigger unit in the centre by the end of the year, with the aim of having up to eight staff on board.  He took time out of his busy – and highly organised – schedule to share his inspiring story and some of his secrets of success.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was working for another company, one of the biggest players in the industry, when I first decided to make a go of it.  Over the past five or 10 years I’ve noticed that customer service in general has deteriorated, and I’d noticed it where I was working too.  I thought I could do a better job and decided ‘why not?’.  Along with one of my best friends as a business partner, we took the plunge.

What makes your company stand out?

Our focus is very much on customer service.  Thirty percent of our business comes from referrals and we want to improve on that, so it is vital that our customers have a great experience with us.

There are around 500 other companies in the UK that arrange stag and hen parties and there are around 240,000 weddings in the country every year, so although there is a lot of competition we only need a small piece of the pie.

We stand out because we look after everything for our clients, from recommending and arranging hotels and activities, to collecting payments, which can be the hardest part for the best man or maid of honour.  We even send out invitations to all guests via SMS and include a link in the message for people to pay their deposit and set up instalments, to make the process really simple.

We also offer referral bonuses for customers, so people can get a discount on their booking, or earn cash, simply by recommending us to friends or family.

What attracted you to Arnold Business Centre?

When I started the business with my friend we were based in London, employing five staff.  However I came to realise that while I was willing to put everything into the business, he wasn’t, and in the end we split and I bought him out.

It ended up costing me a lot of money and I had to make up the difference and basically start over. I decided to move the company to Nottingham as I have friends and family here.

I needed to find a place to live and an office on a very quick turnaround.  I must have contacted so many places to find offices, but a lot of brokers didn’t understand that I needed something right away!  When I spoke to Jamie, the Business Centre Manager here, he was brilliant.  He’s really easy to talk to and has great customer service, which impressed me.  Jamie had an office available right away and he was very organised and really helped out with what we needed.

When I visited the centre the first thing which stood out to me was the quotes on the walls.  It really hit home as I love quotes and I thought it was a great fit.  One of my favourite inspirational quotes is ‘Failure is a condiment that gives success its taste’.

There are plenty more things I love about the centre too.  The free car parking is great, the workspace is good value for money, and there is an amazing café onsite.  It sounds like a small thing, but I love food and it’s all fantastic homemade food.  Actually, our offices are right next to the café which is a bit dangerous, as it’s so tempting. 

What is your approach to growing the business and hiring new staff?

We want to grow through word of mouth and our approach is that ‘a customer is for life, not just for Christmas’.  So we want our customers to keep coming back for more, as well as spreading the word.

When it comes to staff, I like to hire interns.  Firstly that helps to keep overheads low, which is important for a startup, but it also means you are getting staff that you can train up, who don’t come with bad habits they’ve learnt from previous jobs.

Hiring the right people is vital, which I’ve learnt first hand as well as from my previous work in recruitment.  We travel around Europe a lot getting to know different cities and suppliers, which is a big perk of the job and means we get a lot of applicants for positions.  To make sure I take on the right people I put a lot of effort into the job advert itself as well as interviewing.

In my last advert, at the bottom I asked people to include a specific phrase in their applications, and out of 141 applicants only a handful did, which showed they’d read the advert properly.  I think it’s important for new recruits to get stuck into the job on their first day so I can see how they work, and in fact Zoe made three sales within her first week.

I throw in curveball questions in interviews that people can’t prepare for, and give them a trial day to get a feel of how people learn and develop.

I want to grow to seven or eight staff by the end of the year, and as soon as a staff member starts paying for themselves that will trigger the next hire.

What are the differences dealing with stag and hen parties?

Firstly it’s a lot easier to deal with stag parties than hen parties!  For hens they normally know exactly what they want to do, and it has to be perfect.  But we always warn the organiser that it’s going to be impossible to please every single member of the group!

Guys normally need more help, so we’ll start off with determining their budget then give them ideas on activities, where to go and what type of hotel to stay in.  If they’re going abroad we can arrange for someone to guide them round the best, and safest, places to go.

What are the challenges working around the whole of Europe?

Well firstly it’s hurt my liver a lot!  I’ve probably been to every European city, and I once did 13 weekends in a row getting to know what’s out there.

People appreciate our knowledge of what we are selling and that makes a big difference.

The number one destination at the moment is Krakow.  It’s got cheap beer, awesome activities, a large student population, so lots of bars, and importantly it’s out of the Euro, so has a good exchange rate.

We lost a lot of money last year with the Euro rate going down, and some stag parties actually cost us to send last year, so we’ve had to learn from that.

What have you learnt from running your own business?

The worst and best bits are the same thing and that’s that you have to make all the decisions.

It’s great to not be answering to someone else, but at the same time all the responsibility is on you. 

What are the best and worst bits about running your own business?

This is my third attempt at running my own company and it’s third time lucky!  I have got it right now, because I realise planning is key.

I was never very organised, but now I am ridiculously organised because you can get so much more done in a day if you plan properly.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs thinking of starting their own companies?

You are in control of your own destiny and there is no limit – the harder you work, the more successful you will become.

I’ve had some massive knocks along the way, but once you have started working for yourself that’s it and nothing beats it.  My ex business partner was a close friend and now we no longer talk.  Make sure you choose your business partner ridiculously carefully, and get everything down on paper, no matter how good a friend you are.  That’s not just financials, but what your roles are and what you are expecting of each other.

Also have a good accountant is really important, so don’t cut corners.

You’ll learn a lot along the way so enjoy the experience.